Gallery - Past Exhibitions - 2007 - Winter Ladakh
(Click image for slideshow)
I returned to Ladakh in the winter of 2007. Phuntsog and I both wanted to visit my friend Tashi, the head lama at the isolated Lingshed monastery. With the high passes of the Ladakh and Zanskar Ranges blocked by winter snows, our only access there was walking along the somewhat infamous frozen Zanskar River. Horses are not used as pack animals for this type of winter river-travel, instead porters are used to haul goods and equipment. We hired 4 porters who either pulled our loads along the ice on small wooden sleds or else carried the loads on their backs, depending on the ice condition. I hired, Gyalsan as our river guide. Gyalsan lived in Zanskar and was very knowledgeable of the many potential harzards of 'the frozen river' having walked it many times. I had traveled with Gyalsan on my first trek to Zanskar in 2001, as he was Phuntsog's young assistant back then.
We walked and camped along the ice edge, at the bottom of the Zanskar River's high walled canyon. Carved through the Himalayan ramparts, it flowed and tumbled down to the Indus River like a white serpent. After 5 days of gradual but continual climbing the river reached the high elevations of Lingshed, situated at the north end of the ancient kingdom of Zanskar.
I stayed a week in Lingshed, visiting some of the farms, the school, the nunnery but my focal point in Lingshed was its gompa and its lamas - particularly Tashi, the head lama of the monastery. It was wonderful to see Tashi again, as we had established a close friendship during my 2 previous trips to Lingshed in 2001 and 2002.
Apart from observing the normal rhythm of winter activity, the people of Lingshed and the monastery lamas were anxiously preparing for a scheduled visit and address by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Lingshed during the coming summer.
With the river ice rapidly thinning we were quite fortunate to safely make it back out of Lingshed along the same river route that we had entered. My next plan was to attempt to reach my nomad friends, the Kharnakpa, at their winter camp in Dat, deep inside Changthang. However not surprisingly, snow had blocked all access in or out Kharnak. Phuntsog and I were able to proceed far enough into nomad territory to visit the Anghoampa at one of their high mountain camps. The Anghoampa are a small tribe of twelve nomad families. I had lived with them on two other Changthang trips. Apart from the general trials of camp life during the winter, the nomads were having to deal with two or maybe three particularly bold snow leopards who were regularly killing their animals. Atypically, these particular snow leopards were hunting in broad daylight, seemly unafraid of the presence of the flock's shepherd. The leopards had killed 20 sheep and goats within a two-month period.
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